By Scott Belille
*Sniff* Do you smell that? Why, that’s the smell of freedom! Yes, at many mass communications internships, your employers expect you to work independently. They’re busy and may only have enough time to tell you what the main message is that you must deliver. Therefore how to represent that message becomes your decision.
A communications internship where the employer tells you to make the calls can be rewarding if you embrace it. Here are five ways to make the most out of an internship with little guidance.
1. Follow the competitors. Watch or read content that similar organizations are pumping out. Just because a subject already received media attention doesn’t mean it is exhausted. Your competitor’s piece may have missed an alternative viewpoint or posed more questions than answers. That’s your chance to outperform them.
2. Ask your sources for story ideas. If you’re clicking with your source during an interview there is nothing wrong with asking for future story ideas at the end. You could receive tips you may otherwise never come across, and the individual could be a source for that next story or direct you to the right person.
3. Don’t skip the topics that scare you.When you’re in control, it’s tempting to discover a big idea only to tell yourself, “That topic is too hard for an intern” or, “I don’t have the time to interview that many sources.” Remember, it’s not about if you will benefit from the story, it’s about if your audience will. A good way to handle this is to mention the story idea to your supervisor. If they see no value in it, you’re off the hook. But if he or she loves the idea and assigns it to you, then you’re ready to learn something new and maybe break a big story to your audience.
4. Set your own deadlines. Some organizations are so deadline-driven that you can feel the stress radiating from the cubicles, while others are so relaxed that it is hard to keep writing at a steady pace. If your deadline is flexible or nonexistent, then establish one so your project doesn’t overstay its welcome. Whether the reward for finishing is going home early or a breathing a healthy sigh of relief that that story is finally put to rest, you will feel better if you give yourself a cut-off date for typing and tinkering.
5. Warn your supervisor if you anticipate having many questions. When the office geology enthusiast assigns you to write a riveting piece about dolomite rocks, deep down he or she expects you to have questions aplenty. Don’t fret. Say: “This topic is unfamiliar to me. Would you have time available today when I could ask you questions that pop up as I research this topic?” He or she should be happier to help you if one-on-one time is set aside to discuss it, and you won’t be returning every three minutes saying, “Sorry, one more question…”
Keep these five tips in mind and you will get the most out of the freedom this sort of internship provides.